"The whole people gathered as one in the square before the Water Gate, and they asked Ezra to bring the scroll of the Torah of Moses, which the Eternal commanded to the people Israel" (Nehemiah 8:1).
In Reform Judaism we embrace this ancient tradition within the book of Nehemiah, which recalls one of the most critical Covenant Renewal ceremonies in tradition - the moment when the Israelites, having just returned from decades of exile, reconnect with Torah and re-affirm their identity as a holy people. In the Hebrew Bible, this is a true "Confirmation" moment.
At Temple Israel we treasure the experience of Confirmation, celebrating and learning from our students at the culmination of their 10th grade year. However, for years we have observed an incongruity, a missing piece of the Confirmation puzzle, which is so present in our text but absent in our space: "the whole people, as one." While our Reform forbears chose to situate the Confirmation moment within the Festival of Shavuot, we recognize that while family members have been in attendance, we have missed the opportunity to affirm the age-old Covenant of our tradition with
"the whole community."
Just as Ezra chose to read the Torah in the very location where people were located, we too feel obliged this year to
situate our Confirmation ritual within
the sacred space and time in which our community actually and faithfully gathers: Qabbalat Shabbat, our Friday evening service.
Therefore, this year we will be celebrating Confirmation during Qabbalat Shabbat, enabling our whole community to be present and celebratory with our Confirmands and their families. Our service is open to all, and we will still be guided by the Shabbat liturgy as always. Yet, on this Confirmation Shabbat, April 26, at 6:00 p.m., we will also be enriched by the voices of our Confirmands, learning about the essence and purpose of Judaism, through their eyes. In this manner, "gathered as one," we will all hear "the Torah of Moses, which the Eternal commanded to the people Israel."
The Clergy of Temple Israel of Boston
P.S. Our Shavuot Festival will still be filled with enriching Torah and celebration, in June. Details to come on how we will "reform" and enliven our observance of Shavuot!